Pregnancy and Dental Care

The expectant mother needs to pay close attention to her oral health during her pregnancy. Hormonal changes make her more susceptible to gum disease and other oral infections that can affect her health and comfort and that of her developing baby. Routine oral exams and cleaning are safe during pregnancy, and recommended to avoid dental emergencies.

Good oral hygiene before and during pregnancy will go a long way toward preventing oral infections and uncomfortable dental work that may adversely affect the unborn baby. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. Avoid refined sugars which encourage dental decay.

Routine dental radiographs (x-rays) during annual exams should be postponed until after the delivery. Risk from x-rays is small but why take any unnecessary chances? The dose of radiation from a single radiograph is not high enough to adversely affect the fetus, but a full set of radiographs exposes you to roughly the same amount of radiation as four days of sunlight. Your dentist should use a lead apron to protect you and your baby if he feels that x-rays are necessary, and if you are having emergency treatment he will almost certainly need them. Elective procedures, such as whitening or other cosmetic work, should be delayed until after delivery to avoid exposing your baby to even slight risks.

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Unless it is an emergency avoid dental procedures during the first trimester to reduce potential risks to the embryo during this period of fetal organ development. The second trimester is the ideal time for any dental work that you need. During the last half of the third trimester it will be uncomfortable to lie on your back for long periods. In the later stages of pregnancy the uterus lies on the interior vena cava, the vein that carries blood from the lower extremities back to the heart, and laying on your back for a length of time may cause you to lose consciousness. If you must have dental work done during the third trimester the dentist should allow you to shift your position every three to seven minutes. Particularly stressful dental procedures during the later stages of pregnancy may induce premature labor.

Oral infections from diseased gums or teeth can spread quickly throughout the body and have adverse effects on the fetus. Antibiotics often prescribed for dental infections, such as clindamycin, penicillin and amoxicillin, are safe to take during pregnancy.

Any dental pain you experience during pregnancy should be treated immediately. That toothache isn’t going away and left untreated may result in an abscessed tooth and infection. Silver fillings (amalgam) will not pose any risk to the fetus or embryo when the dentist observes proper technique. Local anesthetics can cross the placenta, but the risk to the fetus is undetermined and probably very small. Let your dentist know you are pregnant and he will use as little anesthetic as possible but enough to make you comfortable. If you do experience pain during the procedure request more anesthetic to reduce your discomfort and stress.

Make yourself as comfortable as possible during dental procedures to reduce the stress on yourself and your baby. Sit in the chair with your legs uncrossed to encourage good circulation, take a small pillow to support your back, and bring along some headphones and your favorite music.

Pregnancy is often uncomfortable enough without having oral pain and the added stress of dental procedures. Minimize your risk of having a dental emergency during your pregnancy by scheduling a routine exam before you become pregnant and having any dental work done that he advises.